I’ve always wondered why most fashion designers seem to only design for one body type. You see this body type from conception (the sample size) to the runway and finally to the image staring back at you in your favorite fashion magazine.
Every season on Project Runway, there is usually one challenge in which the contestants have to design for the average sized woman, and every season, you’ll find most of them complaining and stating that “this is not the type of woman I design for.”
Well, why not, dammit? This “type of woman” (i.e., any woman over a size 2) happens to be the majority in this country. And they have enormous buying power.
The problem is, most designers just don’t get it. They’d rather not be “shamed” by the fashion industry for designing a plus-size (or even “average-sized”) clothing line, even though if they did, it would probably make them very, very wealthy.
There are a few fashion designers out there who are starting to make an impact when it comes to body positivity and body acceptance. When Rick Owens used step teams featuring women with average sized bodies instead of fashion models to showcase his Spring 2013 collection, people started talking – talking about how these “steppers” represented what average sized women in the U.S. look like. This display of courageousness made me want to wear Rick Owens’ clothing and support the designer in any way I can. Rick Owens gets it.
Another designer that gets it is Mallorie Carrington of SmartGlamour.com. I had the opportunity to meet the New York City based designer (and purchase one of her fabulous wrap dresses) and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions about how she became a “body positive” designer.
How did you get started in fashion?
Mallorie: I’ve been interested in clothes, accessories, and dressing up in general ever since I was a toddler, putting bowls on my head as hats. My mother told me that she would have to describe people I had met by their outfits instead of their names so I’d remember who they were.
To me, working in fashion was the equivalent of growing up to become a princess – so I always assumed I’d be a math teacher. It wasn’t until I got to high school and saw that fashion classes were offered that I decided designing clothes was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Even before I had a sewing machine, I would create bags, skirts, and shirts all sewn by hand by taking apart old clothes and putting them back together in new ways with fabric scraps. I turned a lot of jeans into skirts. Sometimes I got very odd looks from my mom as I left the house in the morning, but she always allowed me to have my own sense of style, for which I am eternally grateful.
When I was in 6th grade, I mimicked the outfits from the movie Clueless regularly and went to school one day with lipstick on – a mother approved shade of rose. Unfortunately, a teacher in my school did not deem it appropriate for an 11 year old and gave me an earful. When I reported back to my mother, she was livid and told me that he could complain to her next time if he’d like. She has always had my back and supported me. And to this day, when anyone tells me, “oh you are naturally beautiful – you don’t need lipstick,” thinking I’ll take it as a compliment, I calmly remind them that my lipstick choice is not a response to anyone else’s opinion. I wear what I wear solely for myself. That is my attitude towards fashion in general. Do what makes you feel good.
Where did the whole body positivity thing come from?
Mallorie: As a junior high school tween, I was very self conscious about being too thin. I was gangly, awkward, and many inches taller than my friends – both male and female. As I grew out of that phase and entered high school, all of my female friends began to lampoon themselves daily for numerous other reasons.
It drives me insane to hear fabulous women who have nothing better to add to a conversation than negative comments on their own appearance. But it’s not their fault – it’s what society has taught them. Companies prosper off of women’s insecurities. They build entire campaigns around it. A favorite quote of mine is (roughly) – “If women woke up tomorrow and decided to love their bodies – imagine how many industries would go out of business.”
It is so important to me to have a company that builds women up and empowers them to feel better. Instead of struggling with current clothing options they feel stuck with – SmartGlamour gives them endless options that are completely in their control.
It’s easy to just say, “love your body,” but it’s not always that simple to follow through. I want to give women the tools and the education they need to make body acceptance an easier journey.
What do you love most about the fashion industry and what do you like least about the fashion industry?
Mallorie: What I love most about the fashion industry – is the creativity. Inspiration is everywhere. I love flipping through fashion magazines of runway shows from seasons gone by. Past decades inspire me a lot – you can always bring certain aspects back and make them fresh again. Vintage silhouettes are my favorite.
What I like least about the fashion industry is the amount of fast fashion available in mass market stores. They’ve taken over the country – and there really is not much middle ground for consumers. Either spend $6.99 on a top made in a sweatshop in China or India – or spend hundreds on a blouse made in Italy. There needs to be more affordable options for conscious shoppers. If there was, I think more people would think twice about where their items are made and the lives they are affecting with their purchases.
What are you hoping to accomplish with SmartGlamour?
Mallorie: With SmartGlamour, I have 3 main goals: 1) to create quality garments at an affordable price, 2) to inspire, empower, and educate women on body image and clothing construction, and 3) to chip away at the women on women hate that stems from insecurities and the negative stigma attached to being fashionable.
Although I currently only sell online and through NYC pop up markets – my dream would be to run my own boutique which sells others’ designs as well as my own and also offers on site tailoring. Hopefully very soon, I would like to start offering one-on-one consultations and speaking to large groups of women on the importance of taking care of yourself and the positive effect style can have on your life.
Who are your own personal style icons?
Mallorie: My ultimate personal style icon is Audrey Hepburn. I did a biography on her when I was 12 and I had to dress up like her. I had no idea who she was prior to the assignment, but when I didn’t know who to choose – my teacher suggested her because of my resemblance to her. (When it comes to strictly my personal style, I often add in pops of menswear and pieces with a harder edge.)
I have read many books on Audrey since that report on 15 years ago, and not only do I appreciate her simple, classic sense of style, but I also try to emulate her polished, driven, and kind demeanor. I even have a tattoo dedicated to her, written in my own handwriting, on my inner elbow which reads “When in doubt, love.” It faces me, instead of outward – and the tattoo artist tried to convince me I’d want it so others could read it, but it’s for me to read. It reminds me that in spite of the negativity in this world, if you just try to spread love and positivity, if you are kind and work hard, great things will happen.
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